Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Graduate Profiles: Overcoming Obstacles and Realizing Dreams

Kelsie Piercey of Portland is graduating with a Vol State associate of science degree and a high school diploma. The Sumner County Middle College High School student has also built up more than 60 college credits that she plans to use at Berea College in Kentucky this fall. She is the first in her family to attend college. The journey hasn’t been easy.

“I’ve been couch hopping. I have to juggle school and work. I work about forty hours a week,” Kelsie said. “If I don’t have WiFi where I’m staying, that makes it hard to do homework.”

Despite the obstacles, she has done well on the Vol State campus, taking classes for both high school and college credit. “I’m probably going to cry (at graduation). I didn’t see myself going to Vol State. I just wanted to throw it out there to see what I could do. I like how it’s challenging,” she said. “I’ve met a number of eccentric and interesting people. There’s a lot more freedom. There’s no dress code.”

Kelsie said she plans to pursue a career in social services when she graduates from Berea. “I was in foster care once. We had one really good social worker and one that didn’t care. I want to make a difference.”

Crystal Sloss of Gallatin said she didn’t take college seriously when she first attended in Kentucky.  But that all changed on her second try. “I came to Vol State in 2015 with my aunt, who had just lost her job. I said – let’s do this together,” she said. “I had matured and by my second semester I decided to get involved in student activities.”

Those activities included work as a President’s Ambassador, representing Vol State at events. It’s a prestigious scholarship at Vol State and Sloss credits the people she worked with for much of her success.

“It’s opened up so many doors for me. Tim and Annette (in Admissions) believed in me. I’ve gained supportive friends with the other ambassadors. Having a group of people to support you helps you have a better outlook on school.”

It wasn’t just one activity, Crystal led several student groups, including in her most recent role as vice chairperson of the Campus Activities Board. For her service to the college, Crystal was recently awarded the Robert M. Ruff Distinguished Leadership Award.
She manages classes and extracurricular activities, while also raising two young girls as a single mom.

“I work a full-time job at Chili’s,” she said. “Being a mom with all that is really hard, but my family has been able to support me.”

Crystal isn't content with just one degree from Vol State. She graduated with a pre-nursing degree and will head back to Vol State in the fall to work on a biology degree. And it’s more than just a career step for her. She has another reason for wanting to succeed in college.

“My girls are my everything,” she said. “I want to show them that if you put your mind to something you can do it no matter what the obstacles.”

Les Lyle of Lebanon has embraced change with a new career path and at the age of 55. He spent most of his life in the printing business.

“They had another layoff and I was gone after 35 years with the same company,” Les said. “I met with a really wonderful lady, Guin Tyus, with Tennessee Career Centers. She had me take a Myers-Briggs personality inventory and it showed that I really like working with people. She showed me a list of career fields for my personality type.”

Les knew how important physical therapy can be. His father received treatment and in the process found a bond with his therapist. So, Lyle chose the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Vol State. He even enrolled in a Health Sciences cohort program that has a small group of students work together. One of those students was his daughter.

“She was great. We had similar study styles. She was like my teacher,” he said. “The cohort was tough academically, but it was one of the best things I have ever done. I have new best friends and none of them are over 24 years old. The PTA program has opened doors for me. I have several job opportunities available to me now.”
  
It’s all in the family for Morgan Seay. When she walks across the stage at graduation she will join her mother and family as Vol State alumni.

“My mom is a nurse. She got here degree from Vol State,” she said. “My dad has an associate’s degree in Fire Science from Vol State.”

Morgan says she has wanted to pursue a medical career for most of her life. “I’m planning on becoming a doctor. I hope to be either an OB-GYN or a trauma surgeon.”

Her experience in medical science began at an early age. “I grew up learning to read nursing manuals as my mom studied out loud.”

The dream of delivering babies as an OB-GYN comes from being the oldest of seven kids. “I’m eight years older than all of my sibilings. Babies have always been a part of my life. I have always wanted to be part of something that special in someone’s life.”

Morgan is a Sumner County Middle College High School student. She is graduating with a Vol State associate’s degree and a high school diploma. “I’ve always been a lot more mature for my age,” she said. “I was bored at high school. I have had all this freedom here to choose my path- that means a lot.”

Morgan plans to pursue a pre-med or biology degree. “Since I have 74 credit hours already they say I may be able to graduate in three semesters at WKU (Western Kentucky University).”

“My parents are really proud and glad that I got to get my degree. My mom has always pushed me to be a doctor, because she could see that was always what I wanted to do.”

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